Residents Speak Out Against 410-Unit Proposal

by | Jun 21, 2022

Above: The proposed Division Road Neighborhood includes 410 residential units, including single family, 6-unit and 34-unit buildings.

A quarter of the units would be affordable, helping the town toward its 10% goal

The Planning Board heard the master plan application last week for a 410-unit residential project being called the Division Road Neighborhood on wooded land opposite Westfield and Moosehorn roads. While these plans have been in the works for a couple of years, this is the first public hearing on the project – an opportunity for the developer to lay out the basic plan and for board members and residents to ask questions. 

Town lawyer Andy Teitz made clear at the outset that the developer, Ned Capozzi, had opted for what’s known as a “comprehensive permit,” a state rule that gives builders a fast track through town regulations in exchange for at least 25 percent of the proposed units being deed-restricted affordable for people with a moderate or low income (see footnote for the language in the state law).  

It also gives the developer a density bonus – where a lot more units can be fit into an area than, for instance, in those 2-acre zoned Westfield and Moosehorn neighborhoods right across the street.

While a developer can use the comprehensive permit rule anywhere they own land, it helps the developer in this instance that the town had already identified this area (the property is about 80 acres in size) as a good one for higher density mixed-use residential in its Comprehensive Plan (Editor’s note: It’s a little confusing that the word “comprehensive” is used to define both the town’s plan and the state permitting rule – we will try to keep it clear what we are referring to here.)

A comprehensive plan is like a blueprint for a municipality’s future development. It’s updated every 10 years and needs to be approved by the state. EG’s comp plan (as it’s often referred to) shows this site as appropriate for mixed-use residential, with a goal of adding more affordable housing. The comp plan also calls for the town to rezone the area from farm (F2) to mixed-use residential (MUPD). So, in many ways the project fits what the town was seeking, though without the commercial component.

However, it’s unclear if town officials considered that a developer might add quite so many units, with the only ways in and out of the development via the two-lane Division Road.

The plan calls for six phases, starting with 57 units in the first phase (a & b) – 29 single family residences and 18 “manor” units (a manor being a 2-story, 6-unit building). In addition to those two housing types, the development would include four “corridor buildings,” 34-unit complexes. Built out would take several years. 

Division Road Neighborhood unit breakdown by phase (6/15/22).

The board heard from 19 residents who spoke in opposition to the project, citing everything from the decline of open space, traffic concerns, overburdened town services and schools, increased taxes, and environmental concerns. Around 30 residents attended the meeting with another 35 to 40 people watching on Zoom. (The Planning Department also received more than a dozen letters from residents.) No residents spoke in favor of the project.

But, as outlined by Teitz, the Planning Board is not allowed to consider many of the concerns  expressed at the meeting. It can focus only on health and safety issues, which includes traffic and some environmental issues, but not any impacts on taxes, town services, or schools. Any denial of a project of this type could be appealed to the State Housing Appeal Board (SHAB), which prioritizes the addition of affordable housing units, so municipal denials are usually overturned. East Greenwich went through just such a process with the Coggeshall Farm development on South Pierce Road – the Planning Board denied the 14 units sought by the developer; the developer appealed it to SHAB, which sided with the developer; the town then appealed to Superior Court; before it was decided in court, the two sides negotiated and the developer agreed to 8 units. (Read more about Coggeshall HERE.)

The master plan stage is broad brush, with things like drainage, road widths, traffic impacts, landscaping, etc., worked out in detail during the “preliminary plan” stage, which comes next. The developer did file a traffic study but it was completed during the pandemic, something several residents said had skewed results. 

The Planning Board continued the master plan hearing to its next meeting, July 20. More public comment will be allowed at that time. There is, however, a clock ticking on the application – if the board does not vote by the end of August, the master plan will be approved by default.

Find the developer’s application here: Planning Board Package, 6/15/22.

*Per Rhode Island General Law 42-128-8.1(d)(1): “Affordable housing” means residential housing that has a sales price or rental amount that is within the means of a household that is moderate income or less. In the case of dwelling units for sale, housing that is affordable means housing in which principal, interest, taxes, which may be adjusted by state and local programs for property tax relief, and insurance constitute no more than thirty percent (30%) of the gross household income for a household with less than one hundred and twenty percent (120%) of area median income, adjusted for family size. In the case of dwelling units for rent, housing that is affordable means housing for which the rent, heat, and utilities other than telephone constitute no more than thirty percent (30%) of the gross annual household income for a household with eighty percent (80%) or less of area median income, adjusted for family size.

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15 Comments

  1. Bruce

    This town, and the people in it, will realize the consequences of all this building, ONLY when it is too late. Can’t they say NO to anything ? No sense saying anymore, as I’ve said it before. This town is already overbuilt!

    Reply
    • Heather

      I don’t see how our school district can support this new development with the many families that will surely move in. It is already having trouble keeping up with all the new communities being built and that does not count these 410 new units.

      Is the school district and town even talking together about this issue that is 100% going to be a problem?

      The last thing anyone needs is more housing while destroying green spaces. We as a society need to be preserving untouched land and planting more trees anywhere we can. Think about all the animals it will displace too.

      Climate change is real. It is happening every day. 410 units is outrageous. And should never be approved in EG. Our local government needs to push back on the state harder so this development does not happen or if development is inevitable, it needs to happen on a significantly smaller scale. SIGNIFICANTLY.

      Reply
  2. Victoria CRankson

    Thank you for writing on this, it’s so important EG residents know what’s happening with this. But, I think you led with the wrong headline, this development will increase the overall East Greenwich population by 8-11%, that’s a huge increase in one 80 acre parcel. By developing the majority of the 80 acres into 5k lots or multi-family homes we’re looking at an addition of approx. 1,000 new vehicles driving on a very small section of Division road. The safety concerns for the two proposed intersections are very high, both already with low visibility on a small and in-need of repair two-lane road. In comparison, as you noted above, if this maintained the traditional footprint in that area it would be 40 homes with much more land preservation. The harm to the animal habitats and historical sites on the land are also at great risk with this development. I hope community members can attend the July 20th meeting in-person to show the council and developer we are concerned about this and need to be heard. This project needs revision to be more safety conscious and more aligned to maintaining the beauty and environment of EG that we are known for and our residents love, not over developing it to a parking lot stuffed with homes.

    Reply
  3. KarenLu LaPolice

    Your reporting here is excellent! Most of us hate change in a neighborhood and this is a big one, however, the comp plan, the comprehensive permit regulations, and the fact that East Greenwich needs more affordable housing tops other possible issues. More of a concern would be the access onto Division Road and any environmental issues. If the planning board were to eventually deny an application here it would almost assuredly be overturned by SHAB since the comp plan identifies the area specifically for higher-density use.

    Reply
  4. Alan Clarke

    Has anyone ever considered the fact that perhaps the state has overshot the runway with this “percentage of housing” thing? Has any municipality in the state actually accomplished it? At $3,000 a month for an apartment just off Main Street, the notion of “affordable” seems to have left the scene. There will soon be nowhere in East Greenwich for the people who grew up here and pretty much didn’t trot off to become doctors and lawyers. Is there no one to question the runaway costs of living in this town? Those places under consideration will not be affordable in any real sense of the word. We need a definition of “affordable” that really means AFFORDABLE. Perhaps it’s time the municipalities in this state gang up and go after the state for this gross overkill legislation that allows developers to bypass local planning.

    Reply
  5. Margaret

    Where are our local elected officials at the state level fighting gainst this law? Where are you Reps Cadlwell and Valverde??. Why are we and they (our representitives) allowing the state Gov’t control what happens in our local community. All politics are local so how are they allowing this to happen! This is goverment intrusion at its best.

    Reply
    • DB

      Unintended consequences of a bill passed by our legislators to solve the housing issues gone sideways.

      Will the developers provide open space, a running/ walking path, a elementary school and a satellite high school, an area for shops? A development similar to those being built in the south.

      Reply
      • Jay

        I agree 100%. At least down south they are doing it correctly with amenities, schools, infrastructure and what out the burden on emergency services?! South County Trail medical offices are taking up a lot of fire-rescue calls now an affordable housing site generally had higher calls for PD & FD services…it just is what it is but how about they build a fire-police substation and a satellite school with parks and recreational things to do and a dog park! The south does it right at least, these folks are just money grabbing.

        Reply
  6. EGParent

    Why not focus on being more business friendly instead and reduce the stress on our public works, schools etc. Our schools are already over capacity and nothing is getting done. This many units will bring a lot of new families with kids and add stress to our schools.

    Reply
  7. UPset

    It’s insane that the burden on schools is not considered in a proposal such as this! The schools are already over crowded!!!

    Reply
  8. Mary Ward

    It defies planning logic that the town would have no control over resource planning when the state simply overturns development denials that may have large financial and resource impacts on the town budget. Also defies logic and the spirit of the concept “affordable” that it does not apply to an average Rhode Islander but rather to an inflated income earner that can support owning a substantially more expensive “affordable” home in an affluent neighborhood. If affordable housing was truly concerned about being equitable, then there would be a state wide definition of “affordable”. Also doesn’t make sense that every municipality has to meet the 10% affordable criteria. Do they insist that 10% of new oceanfront or waterfront homes are “affordable”. No, of course not. If it wants to meet it’s housing criteria, the state should have to pony up lucrative incentives to towns (not developers) to accept developments that challenge planning limits and empower town planners with the ability to plan properly for these developments, not hamstring them by overturning planning denials. It’s not in any towns interest to not be able to plan for and manage its own growth and resources

    Reply
    • Margaret

      Two of these projects this size jammmed down the throats of EG taxpayer would cripple our small community without any input from the citizens. Well so much for our quaint little town. Our Government is out of control….actually they want to control ALL aspects of your life!

      Reply
  9. J Sheldon

    I grew was up on Moosehorn Road and enjoyed all the aspects of learning many things related to rural life in Frenchtown. And now you want to do what ????? Choke off yet another area with mega construction, rid yourselves of more forest? You can call it progress or whatever you want. I call it stupidity. The state has just CUT ITS CONTRIBUTION to EG schools. Who is going to cover the necessary increase in first responders, both fire and police. Most cities and towns are already having to utilize out of town aid. Hospitals are so overwhelmed already they have to go into diversion status. I’ve got it. All you folks in high enough income brackets can just ante up and get to building new fire stations (at least two more fully staffed and equipped), police station (at least one with up to date equipment for patrol officers, and Lord only knows how many more schools.

    Reply
  10. Ray riccio

    “But, as outlined by Teitz, the Planning Board is not allowed to consider many of the concerns expressed at the meeting. It can focus only on health and safety issues, which includes traffic and some environmental issues, but not any impacts on taxes, town services, or schools.”

    No truer statement can be conveyed as townies have come to vacate the fact that not one official focuses on any impact of real estate taxes of its inhabitants.

    Take as an example a 10,000 square foot lot (land only) on Mawney Street can be valued anywhere from $30,000 to $60,000 if not more, than an acre (43,560 feet) in the Signal Ridge region (underground utilities etc.) of this town. So please don’t get confused it’s not just the Planning Department that doesn’t consider the impact of taxes.

    Reply
  11. Alan Clarke

    AGAIN: As Margaret asked above:
    Where are our local elected officials at the state level fighting against this law? Where are you Reps Cadlwell and Valverde??. Why are we and they (our representitives) allowing the state Gov’t control what happens in our local community. All politics are local so how are they allowing this to happen! This is goverment intrusion at its best.

    Indeed, where ARE our elected officials, Rep. Caldwell and Sen. Valverde? Perhaps they should take the podium and tell us what they think of it all. Otherwise, we really have no representation at state level, do we! My personal opinion is that if they allow this development to fester, then the state should build a school out there, provide a health clinic, and otherwise provide services not presently in that area.

    Reply

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